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Descriptions du produit



They’d been drawing for over half an hour. There was no sound except for the slurring of pencils on Michelet paper or the barely perceptible squeak of charcoal. At the center of the circle of students, close to the dais, a stove cast a barred red light onto the floor. The smell of burning coke mingled with other smells: sweat, hot cloth, cigar and tobacco smoke. Now and again you could hear the soft pop of lips inhaling and another plume of blue smoke would rise to join the pall that hung over the whole room.

Nobody spoke. You were not allowed to talk in the life class. In the Antiques Room, where they spent the mornings copying from casts of Classical and Renaissance sculpture, talking was permitted, and the students—a few of the women, in particular—chattered nonstop. Here, apart from the naked woman on the dais, the atmosphere was not unlike a men’s club. The women students had their own separate life class somewhere on the lower floor. Even the Slade, scandalously modern in most respects, segregated the sexes when the naked human body was on display.

Paul Tarrant, sitting on the back row, as far away from the stove as he could get, coughed discreetly into his handkerchief. He was still struggling to throw off the bronchitis that had plagued him all winter and the fumes irritated his lungs. He’d finished his drawing, or at least he’d reached the point where he knew that further work would only make matters worse. He leaned back and contemplated the page. Not one of his better efforts.

He knew, without turning to look, that Professor Tonks had entered the room. It was always like this with Tonks, the quiet entry. He seemed to insinuate himself into the room. You knew he’d arrived only when you saw the students sitting opposite straighten their shoulders or bend more anxiously over their drawings. Tonks was a dark planet whose presence could be deduced only by a deviation in the orbit of other bodies.

Paul risked a sidelong glance. Tonks, bent at the shoulders like a butcher’s hook, was scrutinizing a student’s drawing. He said something, too low to be heard. The student mumbled a reply and Tonks moved on. Another student, then another. He was working his way along the back row, passing quickly from drawing to drawing. Sugden brought him to a halt. Sugden was hopeless, among the worst in the class. Tonks always spent more time on the weaker students, which indicated a kindly disposition, perhaps, or would have done had he not left so many of them in tatters.

So far his progress had been quiet, but now suddenly he raised his voice.

“For God’s sake, man, look at that arm. It’s got no more bones in it than a sausage. Your pencil’s blunt, your easel’s wobbly, you’re working in your own light, and you seem to have no grasp of human anatomy at all. What is the point?”

Many of Tonks’s strictures related to the students’ ignorance of anatomy. “Is it a blancmange?” had been one of his comments on Paul’s early efforts. Tonks had trained as a surgeon and taught anatomy to medical students before Professor Browne invited him to join the staff at the Slade. His eye, honed in the dissecting room and the theater, detected every failure to convey what lay beneath the skin. “Look for the line,” he would say again and again. “Drawing is an explication of the form.” It was one of the catchphrases Slade students sometimes chanted to each other. Along with: “I thy God am a jealous God. Thou shalt have none other Tonks but me.”

There was no getting round Tonks’s opinion of your work. Tonks was the Slade.

Paul looked at his drawing. If he’d been dissatisfied before he was dismayed now. As Tonks drew closer, his drawing became mysteriously weaker. Not only had he failed to “explicate the form,” but he’d also tried to cover up the failure with all the techniques he’d learned before coming to the Slade: shading, cross–hatching, variations in tone, even, now and then, a little discreet smudging of the line. In the process, he’d produced the kind of drawing that at school—and even, later, in night classes—had evoked oohs and ahs of admiration. Once, not so long ago, he’d have been pleased with this work; now, he saw its deficiencies only too clearly. Not only was the drawing bad, it was bad in exactly the way Tonks most despised. More than just a failure, it was a dishonest failure.

He took a deep breath. A second later Tonks’s shadow fell across the page, though he immediately moved a little to one side so that the full awfulness could be revealed. A long pause. Then he said conversationally, as if he were really interested in the answer, “Is that really the best you can do?”


“Then why do it?”

Why indeed? Paul made no reply and after a moment Tonks moved on. At last, from somewhere, a rush of anger. “If I knew how to draw I wouldn’t need to be here at all, would I?”

He’d shouted, though he hadn’t meant to. All around people were turning to stare at him. Without giving Tonks a chance to reply, he threw down his pencil and walked out.

The corridor, empty between classes, stretched ahead of him. Its walls seemed to throb with his anger. The heat of it kept him going all the way to the main entrance and out into the quad. There he stopped and looked around him. What was he doing, storming out like that in the middle of a session? It was asking for trouble. And yet he knew he couldn’t go back. Students were sitting in small circles on the grass, laughing and talking, but they were mainly medical students enjoying a break between lectures, and there was nobody he knew. He threaded his way between the groups and out through the iron gates into Gower Street. At first he started to walk towards Russell Square, the nearest green space, but that wasn’t far enough. He needed to get right away, to think about his future in unfamiliar surroundings, because although, in one sense, his spat with Tonks had been relatively trivial, he felt that it marked a crisis in his career.

If you could call it a career.


He’d been walking round and round the lake for over an hour. His shadow, hardly visible when he first entered the park, now trotted at his heels like a stunted child. Round and round the problem went: no talent, wasting my time, better leave now and get a job. Or would it be more sensible to wait till the end of the year? He’d always intended to spend two years at the Slade and it seemed a bit feeble to leave before the first year was over, but then what was the point of continuing when his work not only failed to improve but actually seemed to deteriorate from week to week? It wasn’t as if he had unlimited money. He had a legacy from his grandmother, a slum landlord of quite astonishing rapacity who, by skimping on repairs and bringing up her large family on bread and scrape, had salted away a great deal of money in the box under her bed. What would her advice have been?

Have nowt to do with nancy–boy stuff like art, there’s no money in that, and if you’ve got tangled up in it, lad, get out as fast as you can.

She’d been horrified when he went to work as an orderly in a hospital; real men earned their living by their own sweat and blood.

This was getting him nowhere. He found a bench and sat down, feeling the heat heavy on his shoulder blades. Craning his neck, he looked up at the tops of the trees, dark against the pulsing sun. Everything was flooded in lemony light. After a while he straightened up and looked about him, and it was then that he became aware of the girl on the other side of the lake.

A young girl, still with the childish blondeness that rarely survives into adult life, was wandering along the waterside. She was about fifteen, dressed in the shabby, respectable clothes of a maid, her only ornament a bunch of purple velvet violets pinned to the crown of her black straw hat. Sent into service, he guessed, away from her own overcrowded home. Girls that age are not easily accommodated in two–bedroomed houses, parents needing privacy, adolescent brothers curious, younger children sleeping four to a bed. This would be her afternoon off.

He tracked her with his eyes. A few paces further on she stopped, standing at the water’s edge looking down into the depths. Thinking they were going to be fed, swans, geese, and ducks set off towards her from all parts of the lake, so that the slim, gray figure quickly became the focal point of thirty or more converging lines. There was something odd about her and at first he couldn’t think what it was, but then he noticed that the buttons on her blouse had been done up in the wrong sequence. There was a glimpse of what might have been bare flesh between the edge of her blouse and her skirt. He kept expecting her to pull her shawl more closely round her or turn away and put herself to rights. But she did neither. Instead she stumbled a few feet further along, then stopped again, the shadows of rippling water playing over her face and neck.

She was swaying on her feet. At first he thought nothing of it, but then it happened again, and again. It came to him in a flash. Incredibly, this fresh–faced, innocent–looking girl was drunk. He looked up and down the path to see if she was alone and there, about twenty yards behind, stood a portly, middle–aged man watching her. Ah, authority. Probably the man was her employer—he was too well–dressed to be her father—but then, if he had a legitimate reason to be interested in her, why did he not approach and take control of the situation? Instead of strolling along at that loitering, predatory pace, his eyes fixed on her back. No, he was nothing to do with her—unless of course he was the man responsible for her condition. That, or he’d noticed the state she was in and recognized easy pickings when he saw them.

Bastard. All Paul’s long frustration in the life class—a frustration which could never be vented on Professor Tonks because he respected the man too much—boiled over into hatred of this man with his florid cheeks and his expensive suit and his silver–topped cane. He jumped up and began striding along the path, meaning to cut them off before they reached the gate.

The sun, past its height, had begun to throw long bluish shadows across the grass. Paul’s heels rang out on the pavement as he half walked, half ran round the head of the lake. He felt vigorous, clear. All the disappointments and complexities of the past few months had dropped away. He drew level with the girl, who had once more paused and was gazing out over the lake. A few yards away from her the geese were beginning to come ashore. Big, webbed yellow feet made puddles of wet on the dusty path as they lurched towards her, open beaks hissing. Startled, she took off her shawl and flapped it at them until at last, honking and hissing, they flopped, one by one, into the water again.

Now that Paul was closer he could see that her hair had slipped loose from the pins at the nape of her neck and straggled down her back. The blouse was badly torn, it must have been ripped off her back. Looking down, he saw that only one foot had a stocking on; the other was thrust bare into a down–at–heel shoe. He looked at the slim, naked ankle and felt a tweak of lust that hardly broke the surface of his consciousness before it was transmuted into anger. Who had done this to her? She was such a child. He was afraid to startle her by speaking to her and, anyway, she might well misconstrue his intentions.

The middle–aged man had stopped a few yards away and was gazing at him with obvious resentment. Paul turned to stare at him. Medium height, heavily built, bulky about the shoulders and chest, but a lot of that was flab. His trouser buttons strained to accommodate his postprandial belly. His eyes kept sliding away from Paul to the girl and back again. At last he stepped to one side, ostentatiously allowing Paul plenty of room to pass. Paul held his ground.

Meanwhile, the girl tried to move on, but staggered and almost fell. She seemed disorientated now and after standing for a moment simply flopped down on the path. With a glance at Paul the man moved towards her. Paul stepped forward to cut him off.

“What do you want?” the man said.

A Yorkshire accent? “Are you responsible for this?”



“I never saw her before in my life.” Grayish–green eyes, the color of infected phlegm. “I was going to put her in a cab and send her back to her family.”

“ ’Course you were.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“We could take her to the police station.”

“Oh, I doubt if she’d thank you for that.”

“Let’s ask her, shall we?”

The man leaned forward in a fug of port–wine breath. “Look, piss off, will you? I saw her first.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s not your business.” A hiss the geese would have been proud of. “For God’s sake, look at her. Don’t you think you’re closing the stable door after the horse’s bolted?”

“And a slice off a cut cake won’t be missed. What a fund of homely northern wisdom you are.”

Gooseberry–green eyes swelled to bursting. A purpling of pendulous cheeks, then Paul caught a flash of silver from the upraised cane. He raised his arm to break the blow and pain jolted from his forearm into his shoulder. Now he had his excuse, his legitimate reason. He twisted the cane out of the other’s hand and brought it crashing down onto his shoulders, once, twice, three times, and then he lost count. There was no reason ever to stop, he’d never felt such joy, strength seemed to flow into him from the sky. But a minute later, as the man turned away, presenting only his bowed shoulders to the blows, Paul started to recover himself. In a final burst of exhilaration, he sent the cane whirling in a broad arc over the lake, its silver knob flashing in the sun.

“Fetch!” he shouted, feeling his spit fly. “Go on, boy, fetch!”

The cane plopped and sank. Concentric rings of ripples laced with foam spread out over the surface of the water. Its owner turned to face Paul, goosegog eyes red veined with rage. “Do you know how much that cost?”

“More than the girl, I’ll bet.” --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

Sharply written and elegantly constructed...breathtaking (Guardian)

A compelling read (Literary Review)

Thoughtful, ambiguous and powerful (Sunday Telegraph)

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Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 256 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin; Édition : Re-issue (7 août 2008)
  • Collection : HH FIC PB
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0141019476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141019475
  • Dimensions du produit: 13 x 1,5 x 19,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 21.638 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par lectrice anglophone le 21 mars 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Il y a deux parties très distinctes dans ce court roman: La première: l'été 1914, un groupe d' élèves d'une école des Beaux Arts à Londres prévoit avec insouciance leur "vie" comme artistes. Paul, le héros, connait une brève liaison avec Teresa, femme mariée qui travaille comme modèle. Bizarrement, le personnage de Teresa disparait presque aussitôt et on se demande pourquoi. Est-ce que l'auteur avait en tête un autre rôle pour elle et ne savait pas comment relier son histoire avec celle des autres protagonistes ?
La deuxième partie: le début de la guerre en Belgique et en France. Paul se trouve près du front où il côtoie la souffrance et la mort, d'abord comme aide soignant dans un hôpital de campagne, puis comme ambulancier . Cette partie est nettement mieux réussie.
Ce roman n'est pas du même niveau littéraire que la remarquable trilogie par Pat Barker "Regeneration", "The Eye in the Door" et "Ghost Road" où elle a su communiquer une très forte puissance et une émotion toujours présente, ce qui n'est pas le cas avec "Life Class".
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42 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Harsh school of life 3 février 2008
Par Kerry Walters - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Reading Life Class, a line from Henri Nouwen kept running through my head: "You can get straight A's in school and still flunk life." Or, in loyalty to the title of Pat Barker's wonderful new novel, perhaps this is more appropriate: "You can do well in the schoolroom, but the real proof of the pudding is how well you do in life class."

The lead characters in Barker's novel, whom we meet on the eve of World War I, are all deeply wounded in one way or another: Neville, the bullied boy who grows up to be a bullying man; Teresa, the femme fatale who evokes a destructive passion in her lovers; Elinor, obsessively using her art as a safe harbor from the world; and Paul, the protagonist, so traumatized in his boyhood by the insanity, physical abuse, and suicide of his mother that intimacy is difficult for him.

At the novel's outset, each of these characters is associated with the Slade school of art in London (Teresa is a model, the rest are students). They live in the safe bubble of the academy, and judge themselves and one another according to its relatively untroublesome standards. But all of them, as the novel unfolds, are propelled by the outbreak of the war into the much more challenging (and unforgiving) school of life. The upheaval of their world, the demolition of their comfortably reassuring pre-war conventions, offers them ample opportunity to face their own wounds, recognize just how their personal suffering influences their actions and relationships, and do something to heal. This is the test that they--and all humans--must pass or flunk.

At novel's end, though, only Paul--a failed student in Slade's classrooms--passes. When war erupts, both he and Neville volunteer as medical orderlies and ambulance drivers. Neville, true to form, manages to avoid danger, but returns to London society with a portmanteau of paintings that are all the rage. Paul, who'd been told by his art professor that he'd never be a decent artist until he felt deeply, is taught by the war to do precisely that. The horrible suffering of the soldiers he nurses, the violent death of his best friend, his own wounding from a fronhtline shelling, force him past the emotional frozenness that fell on him at his mother's suicide. His paintings take on a new vitality, but also a new terribleness.

Teresa disappears in the second half of the novel, the implication being that she's so ill-prepared for the school of life that her story is too uninterestingly static to continue. We do know, however, that she continues to be a successful artist's model. Elinor submerges herself more and more deeply into her art, refusing to think about the war, much less allow it to influence her painting. She prefers to live in the pristine and abstract world of the "artiste," symbolized in the novel by her becoming a part of the Bloomsburg set. At novel's end, she's working on a pastoral landscape that's as far removed from what's going on at the front--and from what Paul's experiencing and painting--as anything could be. But, like Teresa and Neville, her moderate showing in the school of life is muted by her remarkable success at the Slade, where she collects honors and scholarships for her safe paintings and drawings.

This is an extremely ambitious and thoughtful novel that encourages readers to question their values and deepest ambitions. As usual with a Barker novel, there are passages which are breath-takingly evocative, and her ability to imagine herself (and us) onto a battlefield is uncanny. Still, it's not entirely clear to me that Barker has totally pulled off what she wanted to. The two parts of the novel, for example, don't hang together as well as they might. One almost gets the impression that they're really two separate stories. Moreover, the evolution of the characters, especially Paul and Elinor, seems a bit rushed at times. But all in all, this is a story worthy of the author of the Regeneration Trilogy. Highly recommended.
26 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
not up to the regeneration trilogy level 2 février 2008
Par David W. Straight - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy is a great work, truly deserving of 5 stars (or more!). I've sent copies to family and friends, and I have copies both at home and in the office for easy rereading. Life Class takes us back to WW I, but sadly the magic of the Regeneration trilogy just isn't there. As with Regeneration, there are scenes in London and of the war (behind the front, though, at first-aid stations). Regeneration did a brilliant job of meshing real characters (Rivers, Owen, Sassoon, Graves, etc) with fictional ones (Billy). Life Class has the real character Tonks (at the Strade), but his part is minor. Owen's work "Anthem for Doomed Youth" seems to exemplify Regeneration--there's a sense of similar foreboding over the trilogy, and we know from history that Owen is indeed doomed, and Sassoon and Graves lived. Life Class doesn't have a similar feeling.

In Regeneration, the threads of Rivers, Owen, Sassoon, Graves, and Billy continue and intertwine throughout the trilogy. In Life Class, Pat Barker as Atropos has cut lots of threads short--not through death, but by having what seem like important characters disappear from the picture. Things seem shallower--there's not the depth and richness that Regeneration has.

It may be that we've been spoiled by Regeneration: we expect Pat Barker's other novels to rise to that standard. But few WW I novels do rise to that standard--Under Fire, Her Privates We, Paths of Glory, and not many others. I have a nagging feeling that if Pat Barker had not written Regeneration, I might perhaps have given Life Class 4 stars. It's decent, but not great, and 8-10 years from now I might reread it. But I reread Regeneration every couple of years, and I have 3-4 copies of the trilogy books--I worry about wanting to read them and not being able to find them. So Life Class is a decent read, and probably better if you aren't thinking about Regeneration as you read it.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Art and love in the context of war (3.5 *s) 18 février 2008
Par J. Grattan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a story that juxtaposes the anxieties and amusements of both the dilettantes and the talented who attend art school with the demands and savagery experienced by those on the front lines of WWI. Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke, Kit Neville are students or former students of the Slade school for fine arts in London. All are talented but Kit is already becoming known in the larger art world. While Elinor produces pleasant and scholarship-winning paintings, Paul seems unable to make the leap to making an artistic statement.

The first half of the book follows this threesome at a somewhat languid pace as they attempt to win favor with each other, including the possibilities of crossing the divide from friends to lovers. This idyllic world of painting and socializing is abruptly interrupted as all of London erupts in patriotic fever as England is forced to come to the rescue of the French to stop the Kaiser. Both Kit and Paul succumb to the pressures of proving manhood by volunteering to lend medical assistance to the war effort in Belgium.

The last half of the book primarily follows Paul in his duties as first an orderly in a field hospital, then as an ambulance driver to the front lines. It is truly a transformative experience for Paul, but the mud, muck, gore, and horror are balanced by the resiliency and humanity of both those hideously mangled and his fellow workers. It is in these highly chaotic and new circumstances that Elinor and Paul explore their feelings for each other. Are the foundations of love and art unaffected by this chaos and mayhem, or are they somehow redefined. Paul and Elinor are forced to grapple with such questions, though not necessarily with equal success.

The novel is interesting and enjoyable, but it doesn't reach out and grab the reader. The characters all seem reluctant and hesitant - somewhat disconnected. The plot, in exploring two vastly different worlds, has a feeling of being incomplete. Perhaps that is all that the characters will allow.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"Leave your [deleted] compassion at the door, it's no use to anyone here." 22 mars 2008
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Pat Barker's sensitive exploration of the devastating effects of The Great War on a group of artists from the Slade School of Art complements her similar exploration of the Great War from the point of view of the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in her Regeneration Trilogy, for which she won the 1995 Booker Prize. Examining the lives of art students Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke, and Kit Neville as they learn their craft, celebrate life by partying in the days leading up to the war, and eventually make life-altering decisions when war breaks out, Barker creates three worlds, the Before, During, and After of the war.

The superficiality of life Before, the horrors of During, and the disillusionment of After develop here through the interactions of these three characters with each other as the world around them changes--war as a Life Class. When Germany invades Russia and advances on France, Neville and Paul volunteer to drive ambulances for the Belgian Red Cross, and when Richard Lewis, a Quaker recruit becomes Paul's unexpected roommate in Ypres, Paul finds a studio in town where he can draw, and gain a little privacy. Lewis is as appalled as Paul is by the fact that there is no hospital, just a series of huts built around a goods yard, where doctors and nurses have no anesthetics, medications, or disinfectant, and where men lie on straw mats.

When Elinor naively decides to visit Paul, she arrives in Ypres only to have a sudden bombardment send her scurrying back home. In her first letter to Paul after her return home, she urges Paul to take a leave and return to England. "It would be lovely...to go for a meal or [have] toasted crumpets by the fire."

Barker's imagery is vibrant and affecting, and her ability to show the reactions of callow young people to the horrors they see is memorable. Because she shows the same characters at three stages of their lives from 1914 through the war, the reader shares their changes and, in most cases, growth. The limitation of the book, however, may be that some readers will not care about the main characters as much as they want to, simply because the characters are so shallow and so young. The lives they lead in England are superficial lives, and the horrors of Ypres are so horrific that in many ways the young characters do not seem to comprehend them fully. Compartmentalizing is one thing, necessary for survival, but the long-term postwar effects on the characters who return are not examined fully, and those effects might have been the bigger story here. n Mary Whipple

The Eye in the Door
The Ghost Road
Another World: A Novel
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Good, but by no means among Barker's best 10 février 2008
Par R. M. Peterson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I don't readily use the word "fan" to describe myself, but I am a fan of Pat Barker. "Regeneration", "Border Crossing", and "Double Vision" are among the thirty or so most memorable novels I have read over the past two decades. So, needless to say, I bought and read her latest, LIFE CLASS, with keen anticipation. Unfortunately, it does not measure up to the uncommonly high standard she has set with many of her earlier novels. Somehow the novel does not hang together. None of the characters rings entirely true. Many themes or subjects are raised -- love (both heterosexual and homosexual), art, the horrors of war, the social burdens of the proletariat in class-bound England -- but none is developed satisfactorily or in depth. In the end, one gets the nagging sense that perhaps the novel really does not aspire to "be about" anything other than the ever-evolving relationship between the two principal characters, Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke, but since one is not led to care deeply about either Tarrant or Brooke, their relationship can't carry the novel. In many respects, LIFE CLASS has the feel of an unfinished work, something with which Barker long wrestled and finally gave up on.

I don't want to be overly harsh. Many of the scenes and episodes are finely wrought and memorable. The narrative techniques are accomplished. But LIFE CLASS is more a novel of vignettes or episodes than a coherent, persuasive work, and unlike several of Barker's other novels, it is not essential reading.
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